From the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis pronounced his Christmas message and gave the Urbi et Orbi blessing (to the city of Rome and to the world). The Church offered her prayers partaking in situations that require particular attention in the Mideast (Syria, Lebanon, Holy Land, Iraq, Yemen), Africa (in particular the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria), and the Americas (with special attention to Venezuela). He made no explicit reference to Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea. Together with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby and former Moderator of the Church of Scotland John Chalmers, he appealed in a joint statement to the political leaders of South Sudan. “We are all called to give hope to the world, announcing with words and above all with the testimony of our life that Jesus, our peace, was born.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today solemnly pronounced his Christmas message, giving the traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city of Rome and the world) blessing from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. In his address to the faithful in St Peter’s Square, he said that “There is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still. There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ.”
Speaking to tens of thousands of faithful and pilgrims from around the world, Francis noted that he and the Church partake in situations that require particular attention, support and hope. In today's message he cited the Middle East region (Syria, Lebanon, Holy Land, Iraq, Yemen).
“May Christ bring his light to the many children suffering from war and conflicts in the Middle East and in various countries of the world. May he bring comfort to the beloved Syrian people who still see no end to the hostilities that have rent their country over the last decade. Today may he stir the consciences of men and women of good will. May he inspire governments and the international community to find solutions to allow the peoples of that region to live together in peace and security, and put an end to their unspeakable sufferings. May he sustain the Lebanese people and enable them to overcome the current crisis and rediscover their vocation to be a message of freedom and harmonious coexistence for all.”
“May the Lord Jesus bring light to the Holy Land, where he was born as the Saviour of mankind, and where so many people – struggling but not discouraged – still await a time of peace, security and prosperity. May he bring consolation to Iraq amid its present social tensions, and to Yemen, suffering from a grave humanitarian crisis.”
The pontiff also mentioned the Americas, “where a number of nations are experiencing a time of social and political upheaval”, most notably Venezuela. “May he encourage the beloved Venezuelan people, long tried by their political and social tensions, and ensure that they receive the aid they need. May he bless the efforts of those who spare no effort to promote justice and reconciliation and to overcome the various crises and the many forms of poverty that offend the dignity of each person.
After expressing hope for Ukraine, “which yearns for concrete solutions for an enduring peace”, Francis turned to Africa, in particular to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also mentioning Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. “May the newborn Lord bring light to the people of Africa, where persistent social and political situations often force individuals to migrate, depriving them of a home and family. May he bring peace to those living in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, torn by continuing conflicts. May he bring consolation to all who suffer because of violence, natural disasters or outbreaks of disease. And may he bring comfort to those who are persecuted for their religious faith, especially missionaries and members of the faithful who have been kidnapped, and to the victims of attacks by extremist groups, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.”
The message did not explicitly refer to countries in South Asia, like India or Pakistan; South-East Asia, such as Myanmar or Thailand, which he recently visited; or the Far East China, Koreas and Japan. South Sudan was also not mentioned, but this morning the Holy See Press Office issued a joint message from the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, John Chalmers.
In addition to Christmas greetings, the message calls on South Sudanese political leaders to engage in a “renewed commitment to the path of reconciliation and fraternity” so as to fulfil “our desire to visit your beloved country”. Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby and Rev Chalmers have been working on restoring peace to the conflict-torn country. Last November, during a meeting with Welby, the pontiff reiterated his desire to visit the country together with him.
In today's Christmas message, Francis called on “the Son of God, [who has] come down to earth from heaven, protect and sustain all those who, due to these and other injustices, are forced to emigrate in the hope of a secure life.
“It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries. It is injustice that forces them to ensure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps. It is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference.”
Finally, the Holy Father ended with a prayer and a global appeal to become involved and show solidarity. “May Emmanuel bring light to all the suffering members of our human family. May he soften our often stony and self-centred hearts, and make them channels of his love. May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence. Through our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick. Through our friendship, such as it is, may he draw close to the elderly and the lonely, to migrants and the marginalized. On this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world.”
Greeting the faithful after the Angelus and the blessing, Francis said: “We are all called to give hope to the world, announcing with words and above all with the testimony of our life that Jesus, our peace, was born.”